Saturday, March 08, 2003

Crimes against language

Mark Kleiman has awarded the first Winston Smith Memorial Medal for Dishonest Language in the Service of Unspeakable Actions to the New York Times for the headline Questioning of Accused Expected to Be Humane, Legal and Aggressive. Examples of the tactics the NYT considers "humane" include sleep deprivation, long periods of restraint in "stress positions", and "teasing" wounded prisoners with occasional painkillers. Meanwhile, this article from the Wall Street Journal gives more details on US methods, which can include "a little bit of smacky-face" for "extra encouragement".

All of this is of course contrary to the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to the Geneva Convention as well, but the US doesn't seem to be paying attention to its international agreements at the moment. Unfortunately for the Bush Gang though, they may have a few little problems with US law. According to the NYT:

When the United States ratified the antitorture treaty in 1994, Congress also passed a law making torture committed in the United States or by an American anywhere a felony punishable by 20 years in prison. Torture resulting in death can give bring the death penalty.

In 5 or 10 years time, when Bush is out of office and the US has come to its senses, I'd like to see prosecutions. I'd like to see those responsible for running the interrogation rooms at Bagram and Guantanamo put on trial for their crimes, and sentanced to long prison terms. But most likely they'll never be charged, or let off the hook like Lt. Calley was for Mai Lai. Hell, maybe John Ashcroft will repeal those troublesome anti-torture provisions in PATRIOT III or IV.

And on a completely different topic, Kleiman also has some thoughts on a recent lecture by Jared Diamond. I suspect I'm going to have to get that upcoming book...